Polokwane Municipality is seemingly being held hostage by Mankweng residents who owe some R300 million in water and electricity bills amid political resilience allegedly being the order of the day. In spite of this bad debt, Mankweng is allegedly untouchable when it comes to their municipal utilities being disconnected.
It has been alleged from several quarters that this is because the municipality does not want a repeat of the unrest that plagued the Mankweng area over the past two years in protest against the municipality’s services, and the municipality has not denied this.
DA ward councillors Frank Haas and Franco Marx have both questioned this state of affairs in various council meetings over the past few years but the municipality is yet to give answers. “The municipality has an indigent policy for the poor, so the fact that there is such a large amount outstanding for one area is unacceptable, especially in light of the fact that the municipality has already written off over R400 million in Mankweng over previous years,” Haas added.
According to the municipality’s Budget and Treasury Office Directorate status report that was an item on the agenda of the council meeting held on 30 May, “the increasing debt book is attributable to non-payment especially from townships. Credit control is focused on other areas while Mankweng is engaged through cost recovery, to establish the public concerns before credit control is enforced”.
The report further states that “collection in the township is still a challenge. Political resilience to credit control is still in the order of the day. Measures are in place from alternative actions, including handover to the appointed debt collectors to instigate legal processes.”
However, this is still a cause for enormous concern as, in the same report, the figures indicate that debt collection by the appointed debt
collectors does not have a very high success rate. According to the figures provided, over R312 million in bad debt has been handed over to debt collectors who only managed to collect around
R1 million in February and R1,3 million in March.
“The debt collection success rate is very worrying and if something is not done, such as defaulters being disconnected, this money could also be written off eventually,” Haas said.
The effectiveness of disconnecting defaulters has previously been firmly established with Seshego being a good example. Following disconnections in Seshego, the area’s payment rate has increased to just over 90%. Polokwane Observer approached the municipality for comment and some answers, however, by the time of going to print response was underway.
Story: KAREN VENTER